The Big Ten conference season is underway. The Gophers opened with a win over Michigan State at Williams Arena. Up next is a date with Northwestern on Sunday, Jan. 6. The Wildcats open against No. 2 Michigan on Thursday, Jan. 3 at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN2. Gophersports.com men's basketball beat writer Jeff Fett takes a peak at Northwestern.
Big Ten Preview: Northwestern
Head Coach: Bill Carmody (Union College, '75)
Career Record: 280-220 (17th season)
Record at Northwestern: 188-195 (13th season)
Trevor Mbakwe and the No. 9 Gophers host Northwestern Sunday at 6 p.m.
Top Scorers: Reggie Hearn-14.5 ppg; Dave Sobolewski-11.3 ppg; Jared Swopshire-8.8 ppg; Alex Olah-7.2 ppg; Tre Demps-5.6 ppg.
Top Rebounders: Swopshire-6.0 rpg; Hearn-5.5 rpg; Olah-4.5 rpg;
Notable non-conference wins: TCU, Baylor, Illinois State
Notable non-conference losses: Maryland, Butler, Stanford
The biggest question for Northwestern is can they break the curse this year. Since the NCAA tournament started in 1939, they are the only team in a BCS conference to never have made a tournament appearance. They have also not won the Big Ten conference since 1933.
And so as the drought continues, there bid this year to get into the NCAA tournament took a big hit. Drew Crawford, who was second on the team in scoring and was an NBA draft prospect, is out for the year with a torn labrum.
Sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski and senior point guard Alex Marcotullio will now have to step up to take bigger roles in the offense.
The Wildcats will also rely on their revamped frontcourt consisting of Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire, TCU transfer Nikola Cerina and freshman Alex Olah.
Northwestern is one of the toughest teams to predict this season. With nice non-conference wins over Baylor and Illinois State, the Wildcats have set themselves up nicely to start the Big Ten season. Expect the Wildcats to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. If they can make a run in the Big Ten tournament, they could make a strong case to make a bid for the NCAA tournament.